While in every war in which the United States has participated the soldiers and sailors who followed them into battle revered battle flags, this was especially true during the Civil War. Whether it was their own unit's or the enemy's, flags on a Civil War battlefield were the center of the soldiers' attention.Soldiers focused on their unit's flag for three reasons. First, in the chaos of a battle when verbal commands could not be heard, the battle flag was used to control a unit's movement on the battlefield. Second, if the flag bearer went down, another soldier was expected to pick the colors up immediately. Last, if the flag came under direct enemy attack, it was to be saved at all costs.Soldiers were equally preoccupied with the enemy's flag. The capture of a flag had two effects. For the captors, a captured flag became a physical representation of their unit's excellence and bravery on the battlefield. For the unit who lost its flag, however, there was embarrassment and shame. Unfortunately, the stories of all forty Medal of Honor recipients who captured a Confederate flag or saved their own regiment's colors during the Civil War were not recorded. In some cases, all that is known is contained in a brief citation in official Medal of Honor records.
The "conspicuous gallantry" of
Corporal Isaac Carmen (Carman) of the 48th O.V.I.,
Private James C. Walker of the 31st O.V.I.,
and Private Nathaniel M. Gwynne of the 13th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (O.V.C.)
have fortunately been preserved. Each of the three risked their lives above and beyond the call of duty to save their regiments' flags. Corporal Carmen and the 48th O.V.I. distinguished themselves at the Siege of Vicksburg. Private Walker and the 31st O.V.I. displayed their bravery at the Battle of Missionary Ridge. Private Gywnne, along with his comrades in the 13th O.V.C., survived the Siege of Petersburg with the troop's colors intact.
The President of the United States
in the name of
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor